Title: Researchers Use Fruit Flies to Investigate Alcohol Addiction and Brain Circuits
In an effort to better comprehend the neurological aspects of alcohol addiction, local researchers are turning to an unlikely source – fruit flies. These tiny creatures, renowned for being the most studied organism in genetic research, are proving to be a crucial tool for scientific studies, shedding light on the complexities of alcohol addiction.
Kristin Scaplen, a psychology professor at Bryant University, has taken the lead in spearheading research in her lab, utilizing fruit flies to examine the impact of alcohol use and addiction on brain circuits. Alcohol has profound and expansive effects on the brain, rendering the development of effective treatments for alcohol addiction extremely challenging. The sheer number of neurons and connections in the human brain makes studying individual neurons impossible.
Alterations in memory circuits within the brain due to alcohol consumption have been observed, subsequently leading to habitual behaviors and cravings. Fruit flies boast approximately 100,000 neurons in their brain, making them an ideal animal model for studying the effects of alcohol on neurons at an individual level.
To expose fruit flies to intoxicating doses of alcohol, researchers vaporize it in an enclosure, mirroring human behavior. The flies exhibit similar characteristics to humans, demonstrating increased activity and socialization followed by uncoordination and sedation. After repeated exposure, fruit flies develop a preference for alcohol and will go to great lengths to seek it out, resembling humans’ desire for their preferred substances.
Additionally, fruit flies experience withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, including seizures. By examining the changes that occur within brain circuits as a response to alcohol, researchers aim to gain a deeper understanding of addiction. The ultimate goal of this research is to utilize this knowledge in developing more effective treatments for alcohol addiction.
Studying alcohol addiction in fruit flies allows for a more nuanced evaluation of the neurological perspective of addiction. As the most studied organism in genetic research, fruit flies provide insights into the complex mechanisms underlying addiction, offering hope for future interventions and treatments. These findings have the potential to transform the way we address alcohol addiction in humans, ultimately improving outcomes for those struggling with this condition.
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